Throughout the history of our young nation, it’s not often that public opinion about a presidential figure is so unanimously positive as it is about Teddy Roosevelt. While there was undoubtedly the fair-share of discourse and debate during his campaign, history has reflected kindly on the twenty-sixth president of America, and for good reason. Roosevelt was a driving force in the Progressive Era of the late 19th to early 20th centuries, a conservationist far ahead of his time — he established five national parks, and created the Antiquities Act which allowed presidents to proclaim historic landmarks as national monuments — and was an accomplished author (he wrote 38 books, including a history of New York City and the four-volume series “The Winning of the West”).
Yes, Roosevelt lived quite the life; such a fascinating life in fact, that you might not be familiar with just how interesting of a man he really was. So here are nine incredible facts about Roosevelt that might be new to you (and if they’re not, they’re definitely worth revisiting).
9. He Lived “The Strenuous Life”
As a child, Roosevelt suffered from debilitating asthma, to which he combatted with what he referred to as “the Strenuous Life.” This included regular exercise and the practice of several sports: boxing, tennis, hiking, rowing, polo, and horseback riding to name a few. In fact, Roosevelt earned a third degree brown belt in Judo while he was serving as president.
8. He Was Virtually Blind In His Left Eye
The Strenuous Life did not come without it’s consequences. Roosevelt was said to have boxed with sparring partners several times a week while governor of New York, and continued to do so while serving as president. He was once hit so hard that he lost vision in his left eye. Harper’s Weekly also reported that Roosevelt once showed up to a White House reception with his arm bandaged; and injury he sustained while playing singlestick with General Leonard Wood.
7. He Was A Notable Lawman
In 1886 while serving as the Billings County Deputy Sheriff, Roosevelt had his boat stolen from its mooring at the Elkhorn Ranch in North Dakota by three thieves. Being a proud man with an obligation to enforce the law, Roosevelt chased after the thieves with his ranch hands Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow. After capturing the crooks, he sent his foremen back, and assumed guard over the thieves while awaiting trial. It’s said that he stayed awake for 40 hours straight, reading Leo Tolstoy and dime store westerns to keep from sleeping.
Roosevelt also served as president of the board of police commissioners in New York City in 1895, and radically reformed the police force (which was considered to be one of the most corrupt departments in the nation at the time). He implemented regular inspections of firearms, physical examines, and would often walk officers’ beats late at night to ensure that they were on duty.
6. He Won The Nobel Peace Price
In 1906, Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in mediating the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War. He was the first American to win the award, and donated the prize money to Congress to help fund a permanent Industrial Peace Committee. Congress never organized the committee, so Roosevelt asked that the funds be returned to him during WWI so that he could use them for various war relief efforts and charities.
5. He Once Scaled The Matterhorn
According to History.com, a doctor once warned Roosevelt of the consequences living such a Strenuous Life would have on him, due to his asthma. Roosevelt responded to the doctor’s warnings: “Doctor, I’m going to do all the things you tell me not to do…If I’ve got to live the sort of life you have described, I don’t care how short it is.” During his European honeymoon with his wife Alice, Roosevelt decided to climb the 15,000-foot Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps with two guides.
4. He Would Often Skinny Dip In The Potomac River
Roosevelt was nothing if not an avid outdoorsman. While serving his presidency, he would often escape to the nearby Rock Creek Park for hiking expeditions, amongst other activities. To cool down, Roosevelt would occasionally strip down to his birthday suit and take a quick dip in the Potomac River.
3. He Made Presidential History
When Roosevelt succeeded to the office after the assassination of William McKinley, he became the youngest president in United States history. He was also the first sitting president to ever leave the country, traveling aboard the USS Louisiana to personally inspect the Panama Canal (his pet project) in 1906.
2. He Was A Loyal War Veteran To The Very End
Roosevelt is known for his heroic actions in the Spanish-American War, in which he led his Rough Riders into battle on Kettle Hill. He was a proud veteran, often going by his title as “Colonel Roosevelt,” after the war. What many don’t know, however, is that Roosevelt volunteered his services again during WWI. He was 58-years-old at the time, and lobbied President Woodrow Wilson to allow him to lead a force of 200,00-men in France.
1. He Once Gave A 90-Minute Speech After Being Shot
Perhaps the most incredible story about Roosevelt involves a speech he gave on October 14, 1912, while campaigning for the Progressive Party (better known as the Bull Moose Party). Outside of the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, John Schrank, an unemployed saloonkeeper, shot Roosevelt in the chest with a Colt .38 revolver. Schrank was apprehended instantly, and when Roosevelt’s aides began to take him to the hospital, he refused. Roosevelt was intent on delivering his speech.
Roosevelt was quickly examined by doctors backstage, who confirmed that the bullet had been slowed down by the thick 50-page speech he was about to deliver and the spectacles case in his coat pocket. Still, there was a dime-size hole in his chest. When Roosevelt stepped on stage, his first words were: “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot—but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”
After finishing the 90-minute speech, Roosevelt finally agreed to go to the hospital. While the bullet would remain lodged in his ribs for the rest of his life, Roosevelt did return to his campaign a week before Election Day. When asked how he was able to deliver a speech after being shot, he replied that years of expecting an assassin allowed him to not be caught by surprise. As he told his friend, Sir Edward Grey: “In the very unlikely event of the wound being mortal I wished to die with my boots on.”